Black magic: Throughout history, black and white stood as polar opposites

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Is black a color? Well, scientists don’t agree. It, as we know, is the absence of color.  Throughout history, for many cultures and societies, black and white have stood as polar opposites —  white with positivity and peace, black with death and negativity.  Hades, the God of the underworld, sat on a black ebony throne, while for Romans, death was the hora nigra — the black hour. Yet without the pigment black, where would we be?

“Black is surely the most flattering color. Like blue jeans, the little black dress is one of the most symbolic of fashion emblems. In fashion, black is not a negative but a neutral mediator. It is practical, never fades and goes with everything. If you look back in history, black was the ‘it’ color of choice among the chic and rich as far back as the 14th century, where rulers and courts began to wear the austere but elegant shade. According to studies, it began in Italy, of course, where the Duke of Milan, the Count of Savoy and other rulers began to don it. From there it quickly began to spread to France and then England, where under Richard II the whole court adopted the color. For rulers, it was a color of power and dignity,” says designer Samant Chauhan.

“Black says two different things at the same time,” says designer Gautam Gupta. “On the one hand, it’s a uniform but on the other, everybody’s different in it. That’s the intriguing thing about wearing black, it can mean whatever you want it to: chaste or sexy, classless or elitist, wanton or religious, seductive or austere, nun or dominatrix,” he explains, adding, “Also it hides the stains. Hence, it is sufficiently practical to be worn by maids and waitresses; it’s the color of lowly service, as well as of the Victorian bourgeoisie, and of high fashion.”

Everyone looks better in black and white. And black, like white, goes with everything — red, gold, pink, emeralds, etc. But what we are seeing currently is its interesting teaming up with deep burgundy, navy blue, black cherry, etc., says designer Jyoti Sachdev Iyer. She shares, “Just because one can wear color, even in winter, doesn’t mean one has to. Wearing monochrome in autumn may make you feel quietly subversive as well. Go for red and black together: this combination marches up and shakes your vision to the core, in a nice way of course. And it is impossible to ignore. The last time this color combination was chic was in the 1980s, when it became an Yves Saint Laurent signature. But this time, the new red and black is prettier, more delicate, than in its rough and ready street-style guise.”

Designer Karn Malhotra agrees, “Until a few months ago, one of the rules was that you shouldn’t wear bright colors with black. But now, you can wear it with any color: fuchsia, purple and royal blue. Also, black and gold is really in.”

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